No reason for Pac-12 to be shrinking violet in this scramble

Might WSU vs. Houston (playing here in 2019 as Dezmon Patmon pulls in a TD) become a fixture that the schedule? (Photo: Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports)

THE CONVENTIONAL THINKING at the moment is only one conference — either the Pac-12 or the Big 12 — will be standing in 2024, with one league about to cherry pick the other’s members. While the defection of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten is a body blow to negotiating the next media rights deal, the fact is this: if Washington and Oregon are steadfast with the Pac, the Pac should be the hunter, rather than the hunted, relative to the Big 12.

Reports abound that Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado — and perhaps more — are talking today with the Big 12 about notion of moving over.

With the Big Ten’s statement that it is holding pat for now on expansion, Washington and Oregon should be fortifying the Pac-12 right now. Why? Because the Pac-12 is a far more identifiable brand than the Big 12 and, as Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports writes today, “the difference in earning value between the Big 12 and Pac-12 would be ‘negligible’ after this round of realignment (USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC)” is complete.

Long-time Portland columnist John Canzano said based on his recent conversation with former Fox Sports President Bob Thompson, the estimate of the Pac-12’s next media rights deal as a 10-team league would amount to an annual payout of about $30 million per year .

AT THE VERY LEAST, the Pac-12 ought to merge with the Big 12, not allow itself to be cannibalized by it. Former WSU Oregon and Nebraska AD Bill Moos talked with Cugfan.com the other day about why a merger adds up. You can find that story here.

Incoming Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff are said to be friends. That’s a great place from which to dip toes into the waters of possibility. Who would ultimately run the league is a decision for another day.

A merged league would feature seven top 25 media markets: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, the Bay Area, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver and Portland.

If the two merged and added two more members like San Diego State and SMU, they’d have a super conference featuring 24 schools. Divide them into four divisions and suddenly you have a league that is geographically nearly contiguous and covers a vast swath of the US


The sheer volume of schools — 24 — would address the TV markets part of the equation. And ESPN would no doubt relish the opportunity to strike back after Fox scored big with USC and UCLA bolting for the Big Ten.

The strongest response possible to the departures of the Trojans and Bruins? A 24-team monolith would be it for ESPN. And the TV networks, not the conferences themselves, are the biggest power brokers in the room right now.

If you assume four six-team divisions, here’s how they might stack up:

WEST

  • Steal
  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • Stanford
  • Washington
  • Washington State

MOUNTAIN

  • Arizona
  • Arizona State
  • BYU
  • Colorado
  • San Diego State
  • Utah

CENTRAL

  • Baylor
  • Houston
  • Oklahoma State
  • SMU
  • TCU
  • Texas Tech

MIDEAST

  • Cincinnati
  • State of Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kansas State
  • UCF
  • West Virginia

Just a few weeks ago, in early June, Kliavkoff told The Oregonian he was “absolutely not” concerned about the Big Ten luring away Pac-12 schools. Southern Cal and UCLA apparently didn’t get the memo. The blame game will continue but the only real question now is the strength of Kliavkoff’s response.

A 24-team super conference would change the narrative for everyone.

INCYMI: Asked by a reader what news to expect today out of a Big 12 meeting to discuss the growing buzz that Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado will be joining the conference, Canzano wrote Monday that “nothing is imminent” and that Washington State’s fate rests with the remaining 10 members of the Conference of Champions sticking together. Click here for the full story

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